chris distefano interview

chris distefano described you in one of their nahbs articles as 'a chris king spokesman' how far off the mark is that description? (in other words - what do you do?)

I prefer the title of "Person of Interest" as noted by a local paper this past month. What I do is often even lost on me, and many of my friends are amazed that I have been able to find gainful employment in different places doing the same thing. My business card says "Media & Community Relations" but the term industry busybody would seem much more appropriate.

how long have you worked at chris king?

Since October 17, 2005

is this the dream job you've always aimed for, or did a young chris distefano have different aspirations?

Young DiStefano had no aspirations and his college years reflected that. I happened upon a bike shop job one fine day after gaduation and it's been nothing but good times since then. This is absolutely a dream job for me.

does your position require an understanding of the engineering principles applied at ck?

My position does not require an understanding of the exacting details of engineering although it is important to understand what can be done by an engineer and how long it will take.

are the recently introduced handbuilt wheels enjoying similar success to the rest of the product range?

You mentioned in a post not long ago that our wheelbuilding launch suffered from a few first missteps and I would certainly agree with that. We are now just beginning to get in a groove but there isn't enough history for me to make any declarative statements of success. Much like the first few miles of a ride is needed to sort things out with what is going on with your shorts and saddle, we needed some time to understand how we would approach the complete wheel market. I'd say we feel pretty strong right now. But there's still a long way to go and no one here thinks we've got the wheel thing going to the same level as headsets, for example. Although headsets give us a keen example of where we'd like to be.

is it as cool a place to work as it seems from the outside?


do you have to wear a suit?


do you conduct business meetings on the bike, rather than the golf course.

Our home office is in Portland, Oregon where the bike culture is like no other city in the United States and perhaps North America. So, yes, a lot of work is done on the bike. I do, however, enjoy the game of golf.

the rapha guys at perren street in london go out every wednesday morning for a company bike ride. does that happen at chris king?

Even if we left very early in the morning we'd never make it to Perren Street in time for the Rapha ride.

with all the bike building going on around portland, have you ever fancied a go yourself?

chris distefano

Chris King and I had the same conversation not too long ago. To someone like Chris, there is always the personal drive to make an attempt at learning new crafts. Certain people have the ambition of learning and discovery. Most of the framebuilders I know are also quite adept at other technical skills and complement them with an artistic endeavor such as cooking or photography. I was bothered for many years that I was not such a person because I am, in fact, not. But I've come to accept that not everyone needs to have this spirit and I'm happy with the fact that I can find my joy in the appreciation of someone else's drive and determination. I've been allowed the privilege of sitting in with Portland's finest builders and even some extended time with Chris. I can safely say that it's not for me. It's odd to see that fact written about myself (and by myself) given that my father is a fine artist but I just do not have the eye or the ambition to do this type of work. And it's good that I don't try to push it for the sake of just doing it. I believe that you should never do something that doesn't make you a little nervous. If you don't really care about your work, or the result of your work, then you are a danger to the resulting product, the craft, and the entire industry.

did cycling get you into chris king, or did chris king get you into cycling?

I've been in the cycling industry for about 17 years now. I spent many years at shops selling and fixing bikes which soon led to a very short stint with some regional teams. It was soon after that I took an event technical service position at Shimano USA. I was there for 8 years, 1 week, 6 days and it was an incredible time doing some fantastic things. I moved from service to marketing which afforded me the opportunity to do PR, advocacy, a little bit of advertising and sponsorship. I loved the place and the people but my young family needed a different place to live than Orange County, California. So I gave my notice with no plan, no job, no house and really no idea what was next. I didn't want to leave Shimano but didn't feel that I could be effective from a remote location. I didn't dare even ask because it would have been tempting. We arrived here in Portland with 2 kids, 2 cats, 1 car, and 9 bikes. I found a job at an advertising firm straight away but never really felt the same as I did walking the aisles at Interbike or spinning wrenches at a race. I began riding mountain bikes with some King folks in the summer of 2005 and was very quick with my reply to join on later that year. I hope to be here a long, long time.

do you see the cycling community in portland continuing to grow, or will it level out sometime soon. or simply spill into the oregon surrounds and across the canadian border?

Portland's cycling community will have positive growth for as long as I can see. I would say the same goes for many US cities. Minneapolis, Austin, Madison, and Seattle come to mind as bike cities but many other mainstream cities are seeing the positive impact of cycling. Chicago, for example, is really up to some amazing efforts. Their mayor, Richard Daly, spoke at a conference last summer here in Portland and it was electrifying to learn what his city has in store.

any competitive aspirations, now or previously?

I am likely the worst racing cyclist to ever be made mention of on TWMP pages. It's most likely that's why I became a mechanic in the first place. If you can't ride in the world's best races at least you can sit in a team or tech car behind them. I am, as most Portlanders are, possessed by cyclocross and will toe the line throughout the fall and winter.

why do we never see the real chris king? (at least, i've never seen any pics of him anywhere?)

Who says you've not seen him? He's out there all the time. He flips pancakes for local racers and serves up fajitas at century rides and mountain bike events all summer long. My favorite moment this summer was when a racer with a full plate of pancakes asked, "So, do all of you guys work at King?", and Chris just said yes and got right back to the griddle.

do bicycles interest you from a mechanical point of view or from the cyclist's point of view? or both?


you seem remarkably well connected around portland and the american bicycle industry in general. is this a happy part of the job?

Yes, it is incredibly satisfying for me. I often say that it's not who you know, it's who knows you. And I don't mean that in a superior sort of way. I simply mean that we are all in this together so we might as well get along and know what the other is up to. I take great joy in introducing like-minded people. Bike people tend to be shy; I am not.

how big an office do you have?

Big enough to hold me, an iMac, three bikes and three cats.

and how many bicycles?

At present I'm in a transitional stage with bikes. I once had a whole lotta bikes but I'm really into the one-bike-for-many-rides thing right now. Hampsten has a bike called the Strada Bianca and that's a damn nice bike for just about anything. I've got a few MTB singlespeeds, a couple of road bikes and am shopping for a new cyclocross and full-sus mountain bike. Any suggestions? (Note- It's got to have a standard headtube.)

money no object, which bicycle/frame do you buy? (you can vote as tactically as you like:-)

Colnago Master Pista Futura Edition from the Look Ma No Brakes exhibition. Gold headset. Check it out at

campag or shimano?

Both, and one more bike for SRAM. (At present I ride one each of Campagnolo and Shimano and have the SRAM parts to put on a new Cielo - chris king's new handbuilt steel frame exhibited at nahbs)

are you a competent spanner wielder? ie if the bike breaks, can you fix it yourself?

Competent? I think so but you'd have to ask some other folks. You know, I pitch in with the tech support crew at King now and again and I'll admit that being out of practice is showing. I don't have the confidence I once had to take on anything and everything but I'm good enough to get it done at home or out on the road.

i assume that you have chris king hubs and headsets on your own bikes - which colour preference?

Colour, I just love that it's spelled with a "u" so much more. Colour cannot be narrowed to a single favorite so I'll go with what is on my mind right now, Sotto Voce Black.

any exciting stuff happening at chris king that you can tell us about?

Yes. No.

chris king - i love portland

Special thanks to these fine people:
Carson Stanwood, Shannon Holt, Scot Nicol, Diane Citrin and Kim DiStefano.